1 DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT Theistic Modal Realism 1. Introduction In the Leibnizian philosophical tradition Phil Quinn maintained that a strong improvability principle must govern the choices of perfect beings. If an omnipotent and superlatively good moral agent were to actualize a possible world he would actualize some actualizable world of unsurpassable moral goodness.1 Since it is impossible for a perfect being to actualize more than one possible world, theists in the Leibnizian tradition are committed to the unlikely proposition that the actual world, with all of its evil, is as good as any other logically possible world.2 Call that the Less-than-Best Problem. One theistic response to the Less-than-Best Problem is to maintain that every possible world is a real, concrete universe out there.3 Theistic modal realists might take the position that our world is simply one among an infinite plurality of concrete universes actualized in logical space. If there is a best possible universe, theistic modal realists might argue, there is no moral reason why it should be our universe. There is no moral reason why the individual inhabitants of our world should enjoy the best possible experiences rather than the individual inhabitants of other real concrete universes. And if there are some quite bad possible worlds 2 then there is no reason why ours should not be among them. In (2) I briefly describe theistic modal realism. In (3-7) I argue that theistic modal realism has the resources to resolve a series of problems derived from the Principle of Plenitude including the Modal Problem of Evil and the Less-than-Best Problem. 2. Theistic Modal Realism? Mark Heller offers this initial characterization of genuine modal realism. Modal realists . . . believe that the actual world is a concrete object of which you and I are literal parts, and he believes that other worlds are also concrete objects some of which literally include other people as parts. Merely possible worlds and merely possible people really exist despite their lack of actuality.4 Suppose there is an infinite plurality of possible worlds. Every possible world is a real, concrete universe and each world is a causally and spatiotemporally closed individual. None of the infinite plurality of possible worlds stands in any causal or spatiotemporal relation to any world other than itself. And no world stands in a causal or spatiotemporal relation to the parts of any worlds other than its own parts.5 We are parts of the actual world or worldmates because we stand in spatiotemporal relations to one another. And for any possible world w the individuals in w are parts of w because they stand in literal spatiotemporal 3 relations to one another. All individuals are worldbound. No individual exists in more than one world. Among other things, this entails that our world does not overlap any other world with respect to people, quarks, leptons, water molecules, or any other part of the world. But for any individuals at any world there is some world containing duplicates of those individuals and many worlds containing counterparts of those individuals. Suppose that at each concrete, spatiotemporally isolated universe there is an Anselmian perfect being that actualized that universe.6 For every valuable experience that an individual could have there is some individual that does have that experience in some world. And for every valuable thing that could exist there is some world at which that valuable thing does exist. 3. Plenitude Problems for Theistic Modal Realism According to Lewis's initial formulation of the Principle of Plenitude absolutely every way that a world could possibly be is a way that some world is and absolutely every way that a part of a world could possibly be is a way that some part of some world is.7 But to express the plenitude of possible worlds, Lewis appeals to a Principle of Recombination. . . . according to [the principle of recombination] patching together of parts of different possible worlds yields another possible world. Roughly speaking, the principle is that anything can coexist with 4 anything else, at least provided that they occupy distinct spatiotemporal positions. Likewise anything can fail to coexist with anything else. Thus if there could be a dragon and there could be a unicorn, but there couldn't be a dragon and unicorn side by side, that would be an unacceptable gap in logical space, a failure of plenitude.8 The Principle of Plenitude is supposed to ensure that there are no gaps in logical space. There is some real concrete universe for every way a world could be. Of course it is difficult to know exactly how many ways a world could be, but the plurality of worlds would presumably include some worlds that are on balance extremely bad.9 Otherwise there would again be an unacceptable gap. Suppose then that w is an on balance extremely bad world. It is of course true at w that w is actual. According to a well-known problem from Ted Guleserian an Anselmian perfect being at w could have prevented w from becoming actual. Anselmian perfect beings have all of the attributes of perfection: essential moral perfection, essential omnipotence, essential omniscience, and necessary existence. Here is Guleserian, Presumably, an omnipotent being has the power to prevent any possible world from becoming actual, since all one has to do to 5 prevent a world from becoming actual is to bring about some state of affairs that is not included in that world.10 So it is true at w that a perfect being actualizes w. Specifically it is true at w that a perfect being either brings about w or allows w to be actual. But then it must be true at w that a perfect being is morally permitted to actualize w. Perfect beings cannot perform any impermissible actions. But according to Guleserian it is necessarily false that a perfect being is permitted to actualize w. There is a possible world w such that necessarily [there is a perfect being in w] only if it is not morally permissible for [that being] to allow w to be actual.11 The problem then is that theistic modal realism entails that each possible world is a real concrete universe that a perfect being actualizes in that world. But the Principle of Plenitude entails that at least some of those worlds are so bad that no perfect being could actualize them. Theistic modal realism is therefore inconsistent with the Principle of Plenitude. 4. Plentitude Problems Reconsidered. Theistic modal realists might decide to abandon the Principle of Plenitude. Thomas Morris has urged, for instance, that Anselmian theists should conclude that there are no possible worlds that a perfect being could not actualize. 6 . . . [An Anselmian] God is a delimiter of possibilities. If there is a being who exists necessarily and is necessarily omnipotent, omniscient, and good then many states of affairs which otherwise would represent genuine possibilities, and which by all non-theistic tests of logic and semantics do represent possibilities, are strictly impossible in the strongest sense.12 But the modal position Morris describes begs the central question at issue. Even a modest position on the epistemic status of modal intuition urges that at least some possible worlds are on balance extremely bad. Morris's position is that, for committed Anselmians, the otherwise credible deliverances of modal intuition are not reliable guides to what is genuinely possible. But one of the questions at issue is whether anyone ought to be a committed Anselmian in the first place. And certainly modal intuition plays a large role in delimiting possibilities for those considering the possibility of an Anselmian God. Theistic modal realists might urge instead that the sum total of value across the vast pattern of possible worlds is on balance positive or, at least, on balance neutral. On this view there are many real concrete universes that are on balance extremely bad and there are many real concrete universes that are on balance extremely good, but the sum total of value across all possible worlds is positive or neutral. And this position is consistent with the Principle of Plenitude. 7 Theistic modal realists might then conclude that the existence of a perfect being is compatible with the sum total of value across worlds. But no doubt the deliverances of modal intuition are not especially reliable on this question. I have no intuition, for instance, that it's possible to sum the value across worlds. And even if it were possible, a theistic modal realist must still concede that some possible worlds are on balance extremely bad. More worrisome, they must concede that a perfect being might actualize such a world. Certainly theistic modal realists need some explanation of how a perfect being might actualize an on-balance very bad world. 5. Plenitude Problems Resolved. As we have noted, the traditional Anselmian God is essentially morally perfect, essentially omniscient, essentially omnipotent and necessarily existent. Since the Principle of Plenitude entails that there are at least some worlds that are on-balance very bad, we must conclude that the traditional Anselmian God exists in some on-balance very bad worlds. Let w be an on balance very bad world. According to theistic modal realism w is no different from the actual world in ontological kind. Both are concrete worlds containing various kinds of individuals instantiating various properties. The suffering and pain endured in w is no less bad than the pain and suffering endured in our world. It is true at our world that the suffering endured 8 is actual suffering. And of course it is true at w that the suffering endured at w is actual suffering. But Guleserian objects that a perfect being existing at w could have prevented the bad world w from becoming actual, since an omnipotent being has the power to prevent any possible world in which he exists from becoming actual. It is true at w that a perfect being either brings about w or allows w to be actual. But Guleserian urges that it is necessarily false that a perfect being is permitted to actualize any world as bad as w. The strong atheological conclusion that Guleserian defends is that there could not be an on balance bad world w at which it is true that an Anselmian God actualized w. Call the strong atheological claim SA. SA. If an Anselmian God existed, then there would exist no on balance very bad worlds w. We have assumed that w is an on balance very bad world. To make the problem more concrete, suppose Smith is a moral agent in w and Smith is suffering some terrible affliction. Suppose it is true in w that Smith is a good and just person. He is especially undeserving of the suffering he has endured. Assume further that the perfect being in w could have prevented all of the suffering Smith has endured without producing a greater evil or preventing a greater good. According to SA, it is false that there is any world in which an Anselmian God allows good and just moral agents to suffer undeserved, preventable, and terrible afflictions. 9 Now suppose that the perfect being in w had brought about some state of affairs that is not included in that world. Suppose, for instance, that the perfect being in w had prevented all of Smith's undeserved suffering. Would it then have been true that there is no bad world w in which a moral agent no less good and just than Smith endures the same preventable suffering that Smith endures in w? The unfortunate answer is no. An Anselmian God simply could not ensure that there is no on-balance very bad world w at which good agents suffer undeserved evils. Call the necessity of preventable evil thesis PE. PE. It is impossible that there should fail to be a bad world w at which it is true that God exists and good and just moral agents endure undeserved and preventable suffering. No matter what the perfect being in w had done or prevented or changed, it would be true that there is a bad world w that includes a perfect being that actualizes w. No matter what the perfect being in w had done or prevented or changed, it would be true that there is a world in which a good and just moral agent endures undeserved and preventable suffering. According to SA, an Anselmian God would be morally forbidden to actualize the world w in which Smith suffers undeservedly and preventably. But, necessarily, had the Anselmian God prevented the suffering of Smith in w, there would have been a moral equivalent of Smith enduring precisely the same undeserved and preventable suffering in world w'. PE guarantees that in some 10 world, some good and just moral agent would endure the same undeserved suffering as Smith. So it is morally forbidden for the Anselmian God to actualize the world w in which Smith suffers undeservedly only if there is some moral reason why the morally equivalent counterparts of Smith ought to endure the undeserved suffering rather than Smith. But the relevant counterparts of Smith are no more deserving and no less good than Smith. So there is no moral reason why any of the relevant counterparts ought to endure the suffering rather than Smith. The moral position of the Anselmian God is in perfect analogy to the moral position of a lifeguard that can prevent each of two good and just persons from drowning, but cannot prevent both good and just persons from drowning. 13 Call that a Rescue Situation. In Rescue Situations a lifeguard is morally permitted to allow one person to drown if the cost of one life is necessary to the preventing another equally deserving person from drowning. Theistic modal realists should conclude that the Anselmian God is morally permitted to allow Smith to suffer undeservedly if the cost of allowing Smith to suffer undeservedly is necessary to the prevention of equally bad undeserved suffering. 6. The Modal Realist's Argument It is definitive of Rescue Situations that some person P can save another being S and can save S' but cannot save both S and S'. Since it is impossible to actualize a 11 world in which both S and S' are saved, P is permitted to save S at the necessary cost of not saving S'. In general most have been willing to accept the following justification for the Rescuer saving one person and allowing another to drown. (I) 1. R prevents S from drowning only if R allows S' to drown. 2. It is permissible that R prevents S from drowning. 4. /:. It is permissible that R allows S' to drown. 1,2 (I) seems clearly to justify the Rescuer in saving one person and allowing another to drown. But theistic modal realists have a perfectly analogous argument that justifies God in preventing Smith's counterparts from suffering and allowing Smith to suffer undeservedly.14 The representation of the analogous Anselmian argument requires a domain that is suitably large. Counterpart theory provides a domain of quantification that includes every possible world and everything in every possible world. We include among the existing objects, then, every actual object and every possible object. We retain the familiar assumptions that properties are sets of possible objects and propositions are sets of possible worlds. In Rescue situations, there is some person R that can save person S and and can save person S' but cannot save both S and S'. And we noted that since it is impossible to actualize a world in which both S and S' are saved, R is 12 permitted to save S at the necessary cost of not saving S'. [We set aside or stipulate that S and S' are otherwise equally worthy of being saved; that the consequences of saving both are the same; and in general that things are otherwise equal.]. Theistic modal realists begin with the assumption that there is a total set of worlds W in which God prevents the undeserved suffering that Smith actually endures. Each of these worlds includes counterparts of Smith. Those counterparts are the representatives of Smith in those worlds. They are indeed Smith himself according to each of those worlds. Each of these counterparts is the person Smith would have been had Smith's suffering been prevented in some way. (p. 28, CTQML). Further, these worlds exhaust the possible ways in which God might have prevented the undeserved suffering that Smith actually endures. The premises of the argument are set out in the language of counterpart theory. Let c1-cn name the possible worlds in which God prevents Smith's suffering. Every individual existing in a world is world-bound. Let b1-bn name Smith's counterparts in worlds c1-cn respectively. Let Smith take the name s and suppose Smith exists in the actual world @. The Anselmian God possesses all of the traditional divine attributes in every world. The initial premise in the theistic argument is the conjunction in (1). 13 1. Wc1 & …&Wcn & Ic1b1&…&Icnbn & [email protected] & Cb1s&…& Cbns & Gb1 &…& Gbn. Premise (1) says that c1 –cn are possible worlds, b1-bn are in worlds c1-cn respectively, s is in the actual world @, b1-bn are counterparts of s, and God prevents the undeserved suffering of all of Smith's counterparts b1-bn. We make no assumptions concerning the number of worlds in which God prevents Smith's suffering except that these constitute all and only the permissible ways for God to prevent that suffering. According to premise (2) God prevents the undeserved suffering of Smith's counterparts b1-bn only if God does not prevent the undeserved suffering to Smith. 2. Gb1 &…& Gbn ~Gs But why is (2) true? By hypothesis b1-bn exhaust the possible ways in which God might have prevented the undeserved suffering that Smith endures. So it is impossible that God prevent the undeserved suffering of b1-bn and also prevent the undeserved suffering to Smith. It is true that God might have prevented Smith's suffering, but had he done so, it would be true that some counterpart of Smith, b1-bn, endured the undeserved suffering instead. Not even an Anselmian God could bring it about that Gb1 &…& Gbn & Gs. 14 Premise (3) expresses the fact that it is morally permissible for God to prevent the undeserved suffering to Smith's counterparts. Since the suffering that Smith's counterparts endure is preventable and gratuitous, the proposition in (3) is uncontroversial. [It might be urged that God is obligated to prevent any gratuitous suffering. In that case, (3) would have to be strengthened. But this I deny: God is not obligated in the same way that the rescuer is not obligated to prevent one person from drowning rather than another. We should also mention here how this result preserves divine freedom: it is not necessary that God prevent every instance of gratuitous evil on this account, so God's freedom in action is not compromised.] 3. P(Gb1&…& Gbn) But if premises (1)-(3) are true then God is permitted not to prevent the undeserved suffering of Smith. 4. P~Gs We know that it is impossible that Gb1&…& Gbn-1 & Gbs. It is impossible, that is, that God prevent the undeserved suffering of all of Smith's counterparts and also prevent the undeserved suffering of Smith. It might be objected that the Anselmian God ought not to be concerned about every moral agent that exists, but only about every moral agents that actually exists. An Anselmian God that permits an actual moral agent to suffer 15 undeservedly in order to prevent an existing, non-actual moral agent from suffering, does something morally wrong. But this objection undermines the Plentitude Problem for theism. It entails that in some non-actual worlds an essentially morally perfect being may simply allow a moral agent to suffer undeservedly and preventably. But of course it is false that in some non-actual worlds an essentially morally perfect being may simply allow underserved and preventable suffering. Unlike the rest of us Anselmian Gods are morally perfect in every world. An essentially morally perfect being can permit undeserved and preventable suffering only if it is the necessary cost of preventing equally bad suffering. In particular, theistic modal realists argue that an essentially morally perfect being is permitted to prevent good and just moral agents from suffering undeservedly in every world in which he does so, at the necessary cost of allowing Smith to suffer undeservedly in w.15 7. Less-than-Best Problems Resolved The theistic modal realist's solution to the Less-than-Best Problem concedes that our world is not the best possible world. But it should be obvious that the theistic modal realist will again respond that a perfect being is morally permitted not to make the lives of our actual rational and sentient beings better. Certainly, a perfect being can improve the lives of every actual rational and sentient being. 16 Certainly it would be a moral improvement if he did. But we know that, necessarily, some group or other of morally equivalent rational and sentient counterparts is such that their lives are not improved. It is impossible that a perfect being should improve the lives of every morally equivalent group of rational and sentient counterparts in every world. There is therefore no moral reason why a perfect being must improve the lives of all actual rational and sentient beings rather than improve the lives of their morally equivalent counterparts. The theistic modal realist contends again that the perfect being is in circumstances tragically similar to the unfortunate lifeguard that can rescue each drowning swimmer, but horribly cannot rescue all. 17 Notes 1 Phil Quinn, 'God, Moral Perfection and Possible Worlds' in Frederick Sontag and M. Darrol Bryant (eds.) God: The Contemporary Discussion (New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1982) p. 212. 2 Quinn is not especially clear on this issue. He defines an actualizable world as a world that an omnipotent being could actualize. Since that definition is nearly trivial, it remains unclear whether an omnipotent being could actualize every logically possible world. On the other hand he is explicit in wanting not to decide the issue either way. See, Phil Quinn, 'God, Moral Perfection and Possible Worlds' op. cit. p. 205 ff. 3 See Daniel Nolan, David Lewis (Quebec, Canada: McGill-Queen's Press, 2005) p. 55 ff. 4 See Mark Heller, 'The Immorality of Modal Realism, Or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Let the Children Drown', Philosophical Studies 114 (2003) 1-22. 5 See John Divers, Possible Worlds (New York: Routledge, 2002) p. 46 ff. 6 Anselmian eternalism is assumed here to be compatible with God's omnipresence. Since we stand in a spatio-temporal relation (or a close analogue of a spatio-temporal relation) to a God that is omnipresent, even if that being is atemporal, we are to that extent world-mates with God. 7 See David Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1986) p. 86. 18 8 Ibid., p. 87-88. 9 It is not clear that the Principle of Plenitude entails that there would be an infinite number of worlds or, as Peter van Inwagen has objected, that there would be more than 17 possible worlds. It is an important problem but I do not address it here. See David Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds, op. cit., p. 86. 10 See Theodore Guleserian, 'God and Possible Worlds: The Modal Problem of Evil' Noûs Vol. 17 (1983) 221-238. 11 Ibid., p. 224 12 See Thomas V. Morris, 'The Necessity of God's Goodness' in his, Anselmian Explorations: Essays in Philosophical Theology (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987) pp. 42-69. 13 Since Guleserian argument adopts Alvin Plantinga's modal metaphysics, it is important to note that, mutatis mutandis, the very same reply is available to those who endorse Plantinga's form of modal realism. 14 Compare Laura Garcia, 'A Response to the Modal Problem of Evil', Faith and Philosophy Vol. 1, (1984) 378-388. She renders the Guleserian's argument as follows: 1. Necessarily, there is something that is essentially OOM. 2. Necessarily, for every world w and individual x, if w is actual and x is OOM in w, then x allows w to be actual. From concept of Omnipotence. 19 3. Necessarily, for every w and every x, if x is OOM in w and x allows w to be actual, then it is morally permissible for x to allow w to be actual. From concept of Moral Perfection. 4. For every w, w includes the state of affairs that there is an OOM being x such that it is morally permissible for x to allow w to be actual. 5. There is a possible world w such that, necessarily, for every x, if x is OOM, then it is not morally permissible for x to allow w to be actual. Contradiction, 4 and 5. I reject premise (5) in Guleserian's reductio. An Anselmian perfect being is permitted to actualize the bad world w in which Smith suffers preventably if it is true that, (i) for every world w' in which God prevents Smith's counterparts from suffering, God is permitted to prevent Smith's counterparts from suffering and (ii) necessarily, God prevents Smith's counterparts from suffering in every world in which he does so only if God does not prevent Smith from suffering. Given (i) and (ii) God is permitted to allow Smith to suffer preventably. Of course, it is not permissible to let someone suffer preventably, other things being equal. But other things are certainly not equal in Lifeguard Situations. The form of the argument is (i) PA, (ii) □(A B), (iii) 15 PB. The argument is familiar from Lifeguard Situations. Let W be the total set of worlds in which God prevents good and just moral agents from suffering undeservedly. Certainly God is permitted to prevent all of those good and just 20 moral agents from suffering undeservedly. But it is equally clear that □(W → Smith suffers undeservedly), where '□' represents broad logical necessity. Since we expect that permission is closed under implication, it is permissible for God to allow Smith to suffer undeservedly and preventably.